Over the summer I was saddened to hear that the future of the UK Schools Chess Challenge, the world’s largest chess competition, was in doubt. The UK Schools Chess Challenge is very close to my heart. Indeed, way back in 1996 it was the first major tournament that I won. This opened some incredible doors, playing chess on Blue Peter and meeting the world champion, Garry Kasparov. I subsequently went on to win the UK Schools Chess Challenge eight times. My early involvement in schools chess was certainly the catalyst to going on and winning the British Ladies title 2013 and representing the English Ladies’ Team at the World Chess Olympiads. Today I am a lawyer. However, since last year I have been ‘full time’ on chess teaching and playing in various competitions home and abroad.
I am delighted that my bid to take over the UK Schools Chess Challenge has been accepted. I am supported by my husband Alex Longson, a strong chess player and also a chartered accountant. We hope our professional backgrounds will add credence as the competition enters a new phase. I hope the UK Schools Chess Challenge continues to inspire and opens up new horizons. I also hope it continues to vaunt the belief that ‘mental challenge and competition’ is the ‘equal of the sports field’. We met with Mike Basman and Pat Armstrong recently to discuss plans and they are happy to work with us to make this tournament a success.
This past week has been extremely hectic but exciting. We have set up a limited company to takeover the challenge and have registered for VAT. Despite being required to charge VAT the cost to schools and participants will remain unchanged. Letters will be going out next week to schools to continue the continuity of the tournament.
We have been speaking to as many people as possible to get feedback on the event and how they would like to see it develop in the future. We have had a great response from the regional Megafinal organisers who have shown support but also given us a lot of food for thought regarding improvements which could be made. This has been an extremely useful exercise and we have collated a host of potential improvements. For example there is clearly a need to increase the participation of juniors from secondary schools and also to make it easier to attend Megafinals in some regions.
The organisation of the tournament will be modernised and we are pulling together a program of digital improvements to enhance the experience for both the competitors but also the organisers and supporters of the event. The structure of the schools phase; Megafinals, Gigafinals and Terafinals will remain unchanged in the first year.
We are also delighted to confirm that, following a positive meeting at their London offices on Friday, Delancey have confirmed they will continue to sponsor the UK Chess Challenge and are excited at the prospects ahead.
We are grateful for all the messages of support over the past few days and would also like to pass on our deep admiration and respect to Mike and his team for building the UK Chess Challenge from the ground up into the best junior chess tournament in the world. We feel honoured to be in the position now to take the challenge to the next level and to bring the joys of this wonderful game to a new generation of children.
We welcome any feedback/thoughts anyone has. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please spread the word!